Virtualisation guide

With the right software, you can get two computers for the price of one.
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  • Updated:18 Sep 2008



In brief

  • Virtualisation encompasses a set of technologies to simulate hardware for running operating systems and applications.
  • You can create a virtual machine to run one operating system within another.
  • Virtualisation can be used for both business applications and personal computing.

Virtualisation is the hip computing buzzword of the moment: open up the business pages and you’ll find it in abundance. For corporations and large-scale computing, it’s helping to transform storage, application and server use. But for those of us without 100 computers, it can be hard to figure out what the fuss is about.

In the average home many of us own a computer with more RAM, hard drive space and processor power than we sometimes need. Even with a computer set up to provide multiple user accounts for the family, we don’t often come close to using up all our hard drive space. And that’s where virtualisation comes in.

Virtualisation allows you to use the hardware of your computer to create two or more ‘virtual’ computers that run within it. These virtual machines, as they are known, look and act just like a complete PC and the software that runs within them has no idea that it’s being run in a virtual machine instead of a whole computer.

This has many uses — for example you can use it to test out software in a safe environment before you let it run loose on your main system. Or you can use it to run Linux inside Windows, or Windows inside Linux, right on your desktop and so access programs in these operating systems without the need to restart or use another computer.

Please note: this information was current as of September 2008 but is still a useful guide to today's market.



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